Home for the holidays

Soldier surprises mother, brother at Salem School

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Nicholas Testone holds his youngest brother Landon Burbank, 7, at Salem Elementary School in Naugatuck Dec. 14. Testone, who is stationed at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada and wasn’t supposed to be home in time for Christmas, surprised his mother and brother at the school. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

NAUGATUCK — U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Nicholas Testone wasn’t supposed to be home in time to spend Christmas with his family.

So it came as quite a surprise to his mother and youngest brother when they saw him standing on the grand staircase inside Salem Elementary School Friday morning.

“I bawled. I was very excited,” said Kelly Burbank, Testone’s mother.

Testone, a 19-year-old Naugatuck High School graduate, is stationed at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, where he’s spent the past 17 months.

Testone said it was hit or miss on whether he would get leave to be home in time for Christmas, originally he thought he wouldn’t be home until after the holiday. About a week and a half ago, he said, he found out that he would indeed be home for Christmas.

So Testone contacted Salem Elementary School Principal Tiffany Deitelbaum, and together the two planned the surprise for his mother and youngest brother Landon Burbank, a 7-year-old second-grader at Salem.

“I wanted to surprise my brothers, they’re the most important people to me,” said Testone, who has five younger brothers.

Testone said his brothers are his biggest inspiration and motivated him to join the Air Force.

“I know it’s been hard on them being away, I’ve always been there for them,” he said. “So it’s just a way to pay them back and say, ‘Thank you for letting me do this.’”

The plan Testone and Deitelbaum devised was simple. Deitelbaum asked Kelly Burbank to come in and help as Landon Burbank’s class went from classroom to classroom singing Christmas carols. As the class walked past the staircase on the main floor, there was Testone, in uniform, waving to the students.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Nicholas Testone, left, and his mother Kelly Burbank listen as students sing Christmas carols at Salem Elementary School in Naugatuck Dec. 14. Testone, who is stationed at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada and wasn’t supposed to be home in time for Christmas, surprised his mother and youngest brother at the school. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

It took Landon Burbank a second to realize it was his oldest brother standing there, but once he did he ran into his brother’s arms.

“It means that he wants to spend Christmas with us and he loves Christmas, and he wants to see his family,” said Landon Burbank about Testone being home.

Testone will head back to Nellis Air Force Base on Dec. 29, he said. But for now, he’ll enjoy the time he has with his family.

Kelly Burbank and Testone’s stepfather Paul Wojciechowski both said it means “everything” to have him home for Christmas.

“He’s an important part of our life, obviously, so it’s good to have him home,” Wojciechowski said. “It’s been tough the past two years with him away.”